Can you have a seal as a pet? The short answer is most likely not. Seals are wild animals that spent a significant time of their lives in water. They definitely belong to the coastlines of our countries. And it’s no difference if we talk about harp seals, harbor seals, grey seals, sea lions or elephant seals here.
Are Pet Seals Legal?
No, in most countries pet seals are illegal. In the United States, all seal species are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
This act goes even further and prohibits every human behavior that might disturb a seal. Additionally, some species like the Hawaiian monk seal are also protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Only zoos and animal parks are legally allowed to keep seals. Every institution or person needs a special permit that is hard or impossible to get if you are private.
Animal shelters, professional rehabilitators and sanctuaries are allowed to keep orphaned or injured seals. But ever the goal is to release them into the wild.
Why Seals Don’t Make Good Pets
Pet Seals Need A Large Pool
As you can imagine, an animal that so much time in the water would need a large pool. If you want to keep a seal as a pet there would be no way around a big salter water pool.
Seals are slow on land and walk with a speed of appr. 1.2 miles per hour. But they can swim really fast with a speed of over 20 miles per hour. As you can imagine or know from movies they are also quite artistic when they slide through the water.
For the pool in your backyard that would mean that you have to build it big enough. Your pet seal or sea lion should be able to dive and needs enough space in every direction to swim freely.
As the amount of water in a pool is limited you would have to change it on a regular basis. Otherwise, it gets musty and that definitely wouldn’t benefit the health of your friend.
Seals Eat A Lot
Seals eat around 5 % of their body weight each day. What sounds like a tiny portion is a giant meal when you think about the weight of an adult seal. Grey seals for example can bring up to 900 pounds on the scale. That means they consume 40 to 50 pounds of fish each day.
Of course something like a “balanced seal diet” is not available in pet stores. Instead, you’ll have to serve fresh fish. Already thought about storage possibilities? No? Then better plan a new giant fridge.
Seals Are Not Domesticated
Seals are not domesticated at all. I know, they look sweet and remind some people of the cutest puppy they have ever seen.
But behind those little faces, seals are wild animals that aren’t accustomed to living with humans. Yes, there are stories of wild seals that have been tamed, but these aren’t the rule.
Most seals don’t like companionship with humans and they don’t like to be petted also.
Seals Can Be Dangerous
The previous section might have already implied that seals can be dangerous. They seem helpless when they move on the land, but in water, they are powerful predators that eat fish and even penguins if they share the habitat. Orcas are the only natural enemies.
Often people are attacked by seals if they get too near. Sharp teeth and heavy bodies can cause serious injuries.
Especially getting between a mother and her offspring or a male and a female in breeding season should be avoided under all circumstances.
Also, don’t underestimate their speed. Annoying a seal is most likely never a good idea.
Seals Are Social Creatures
Yes, seals and sea lions are very social and they spend their lives in big colonies of 100 or more individuals. You see, that keeping one seal alone would be crucial.
The bonds within the colonies can be very strong and even the younger ones and baby seals are fully included. Taking a baby seal from the group can harm the whole group. It’s like a child which gets kidnapped.
It happens again and again that people see baby seals at the beach and think they are orphaned. In most cases, the mother is just in the sea to hunt some fish and everything is alright. All actions people take in this situation lead to the worse, even if the intention is good.
Almost every seal that is picked up by someone at the beach dies within the next couple of days. You can read more about this sad topic at thedodo.com.
Where Can I Buy A Seal?
There is no place or shop where you can legally buy a seal or sea lion. Of course, there will be one or another opportunity at the black market but I hope that’s not an option for you.
Taking a baby seal from the beach is also not a good choice. It’s bad for its social environment and even if it seems like the young one needs some help, it’s likely that you do more harm than good. As I mentioned before, taking it with you is the little creature’s death warrant.